Archive for August, 2014

NSF I-Corps Offers Funds to Scale and Sustain Learning Inventions

Quite cool that this is available for education projects, too:

NSF’s Innovation Corps Teams Program (I-Corps Teams: NSF 12-602) has created a new opportunity, called I-Corps for Learning Teams (I-Corps L). I-Corps L supports taking discoveries and promising practices from education research and development and promoting opportunities for widespread adoption, adaptation, and utilization.

I-Corps L teams will receive support – in the form of mentoring and funding – to accelerate innovation in learning that can be successfully scaled, in a sustainable manner. There are a number of analogous elements between trying to bring product discoveries to market and getting learning innovations into broad practice. Getting the best evidence-based practices out to potential adopters, where those practices can benefit large numbers of students or learners, rather than just in a few classrooms or informal learning organizations, requires an entrepreneurial approach. I-Corps L can benefit education researchers by helping them to identify approaches that are effective in STEM teaching and learning.

To be eligible to pursue funding through I-Corps L, applicants must have been associated with a prior award from NSF (in a STEM education field relevant to the proposed innovation) that is currently active or that has been active within five years from the date of the proposal submission. The lineage of the prior award extends to the PI, Co-PIs, Senior Personnel, Post-doctoral Researchers, Professional Staff or others who were supported under the award.

To be considered for NSF’s I-Corps L Teams program, Executive Summaries (see below) must be submitted by September 30, 2014 to be considered for participation in the January 2015 cohort. Funding for each I-Corps L Team is $50,000 per award, for up to six months.

August 31, 2014 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Moving from Scratch to text: Why We Need Sniff

I’m intrigued by this project and would really love to see some analysis.  Do students who use Scratch recognize Sniff as being a text form of Scratch?  If it doesn’t work well, is the problem in the syntax and semantics of Sniff, and maybe we could do better?  Do students transfer their knowledge of Scratch into Sniff?

So if Scratch is so great why do we need Sniff? The problem is that at some point you need to move beyond Scratch. It could be that you want to tackle a different kind of problem that Scratch can’t handle well. Perhaps you’ve realised that graphical programming is a nice idea, and great way to start, but in practise its clumsy. Clicking and dragging blocks is a tedious and slow way to build large programs. It could be you need something that feels “more grown up” – the cat sprite/logo is cute, and even older children will find it fun for a while, but Scratch is designed to look and feel like a toy even though its actually very powerful. For whatever reason at some point you start to look for something “better”.

via Sniff: Why We Need Sniff.

August 29, 2014 at 8:39 am 17 comments

The first Critical Research Review at ICER 2014

My report on ICER 2014 is at Blog@CACM here. I also participated in the post-ICER Critical Research Review or Work-in-Progress Workshop (both titles have appeared at different times). Colleen Lewis organized it, based on the “functions” peer review that Education graduate students do at Berkeley. It was great, far better than I might have guessed.

I wanted to participate, in order to support and be part of this new kind of activity at ICER. I was expecting maybe a dozen people in a room, where one at a time a person would present for 15-20 minutes and then get feedback for a few minutes. Y’know — a “workshop.” Boy, was I wrong.

Instead, Colleen broke us up into two groups of five. (The small size was critical.) All of us presented some brief paper (couple pages preferred) that everyone read beforehand. Colleen gave each of us a writeup on the desired culture and tone for the event. “Don’t be mean” and “Don’t be defensive” and “Be nice” were some of the common themes in those directions. At the CRR, each of the five went off to a different room/space.

Over the course of five hours (two the first day, three the next), each participant had her or his turn to share their work. Sometimes we saw data (a video, or a bit of interview transcript), that the group was meant to help interpret. Sometimes we saw a student problem or a design problem, and we brainstormed theoretical perspectives that could help to gain leverage on understand the student’s issues or to improve the design.

It wasn’t a presentation, and it wasn’t an audience. It was (to use Colleen’s phrase) “borrowing four smart people’s brains to work on your problem for an hour.” I got a lot out of the feedback on my problem (related to the Constructionism for Adults post from awhile back). It was enormous fun digging into the others’ problems. Ben Shapiro of Tufts, Craig Miller from Depaul, Sara Esper of UCSD, and Kate Sanders from Rhode Island College were my teammates — it really felt more like a team, working together toward joint success than a presentation.

At the end, we evaluated the activity to figure out what worked and what didn’t. It really worked to have an easel for a note-taker (not the presenter/leader) to use to track all the discussion. The notes helped the group figure out where they were at, and were a wonderful artifact for the presenter afterward.

Overall, it was a huge success. I expect that we’ll see many future ICER (and other CER venue) papers coming out of the work we shared in Glasgow. I encourage others to participate in the CRR in future years.

August 27, 2014 at 8:25 am 5 comments

Georgia Governor shows Support for CS in Schools

governor-cs-klaus

It’s not too often that a policy announcement about education happens on the Georgia Tech campus.  In the picture above, tech entrepreneur Chris Klaus is introducing Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (who is second from the right — the guy on the far right is our Provost Rafael Bras), in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building (same Klaus — he funded the building).  Chris has been spearheading an effort to get more “coding” into Georgia schools.

The Governor said that he’s asking the State Board of Education for computer science to count as core science, mathematics, and foreign languages.

The gossip before the talk was that he was going to announce that CS would count for (i.e., replace) foreign languages (which is not a good idea).  This announcement was a bit better than that, but it’s still not clear what it means.  AP CS already counts as a science towards high school graduation.  Does it mean that more CS courses will count?  That AP CS will count as any of math, science, or foreign languages?  And will the State Board of Education go along with this?  Who knows?

The guy on the far left of that picture is Representative Mike Dudgeon.  He’s taken on the task of changing the “highly-qualified” list in Georgia so that business teachers OR math teachers OR science teachers can teach CS in Georgia.  Currently, CS is a “Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education” subject, meaning that only teachers with a business certificate can teach CS.  Barbara Ericson has fought hard so that mathematics teachers can also teach AP CS — but this all leaves us in the weird position that AP CS counts as a science, but science teachers can’t teach it.  Only math and business teachers can teach AP CS in Georgia. That would be great if Dudgeon is successful.  It’s easier to teach CS to math and science teachers than business teachers.

I was a meeting recently with Chris Klaus where he said that he wants to make Georgia the first state in the USA to require CS for high school graduation.  When I balked at that (citing the issues in my Blog@CACM post), he had an interesting counter-proposal.  We give schools and districts who aren’t ready to teach CS a waiver, but to get a waiver, you have to have a plan in place to be able to teach CS within three years.  Might work.

My proposal in the group that Chris has founded to have more “coding education in Georgia” isn’t getting much traction.  I proposed we do what Calculus did. How did Calculus get taught in every high school? First, schools in the 1800’s started teaching calculus to undergrads. By the 1900’s, every STEM undergrad had to take Calculus, and the top high schools were preparing their kids for Calculus. By the late 1900’s, all high schools were offering calculus.  My proposal is that that the Board of Regents make CS part of the general education requirement of all undergraduates in the University System of Georgia. Every student in every college in Georgia would be required to take a course in CS. Unlike elementary and high schools, USG institutions have CS teachers — they might have to hire more faculty to handle the load, but they know how to do it. It’s much less expensive to teach CS at the undergraduate level than at the high or elementary school level. But this creates the curriculum (you have to teach a different CS to everyone from what you teach to CS majors) that the high-end schools will immediately start to emulate, and that will get copied into other high schools.  Biggest advantage is that every new teacher (business, math, or science) will take a CS class! That should accelerate the rate of getting teachers who know CS into schools, and give them a new tool for teaching STEM classes.

Anyway, it’s probably a good thing that there is all of this interest in computing education from Georgia political leaders.

 

August 26, 2014 at 8:14 am 9 comments

Help us figure out how to design ebooks to be usable

Like the post I made last week, we’ve been working on a bunch of experiment setups during the summer, and are now looking for participants.  This one is open to most readers of this blog. 

We have found that there is a lot of literature on how to design text to be readable on the screen.  But for interactive ebooks with embedded elements like coding areas, visualizations, and Parson’s problems, we know less about usability.  Steven Moore is an undergraduate researcher working with us, and he’s put together a collection of three different ebooks and a survey on preferences for each.  We’d love to get participants to try out his ebook samples and survey, please.

Hello,

We are a research group at Georgia Tech developing new approaches to teaching computer science at a distance.  In collaboration with researchers at Luther College, we have created a new kind of electronic book for learning Python. The book is entirely web-based and cross-platform, with special features, including programming within the book, program visualizations, videos, multiple-choice questions, and Parson’s problems (a special kind of programming problem).

We are currently seeking individuals with 6 months or more experience with programming in a textual language.  If you are willing to volunteer, you will need to complete a survey regarding the design and usability of three different interactive computer science e-books and specific components within those e-books.  Links to the e-books will be provided within the survey and the whole study can be completed via most web browsers.  The survey should take roughly forty-five minutes to complete.  We would like you to complete it by September 30th, 2014.

The risks involved are no greater than those involved in daily activities.  You will receive a $15.00 gift card for completing the survey.  Study records will be kept confidential and your participation in this study is greatly valued.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Steven Moore at smoore46@gatech.edu.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Mark Guzdial at guzdial@cc.gatech.edu.

August 25, 2014 at 8:53 am 6 comments

Computing Education Bills go to Governor in California

Julie Flapan gave me permission to share this email to the members of ACCESS (Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools) in California — thanks, Julie!

Dear Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools:

We are thrilled to share the good news about two important computer science-related bills: AB 1764 (Buchanan/Olsen) and SB 1200 (Padilla) passed out of the legislature yesterday with unanimous approval and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.  These bills are a step in the right direction, having the potential to expand opportunities and increase participation in computer science education.  But our work is just beginning!

 These bills have the potential to make computer science count for California’s high school students: with AB 1764, an advanced computer science course may count as a math credit toward graduation, and with SB 1200, computer science may count as a credit toward UC/CSU college admissions.  Research has shown that making computer science count incentivizes students – especially those underrepresented in computing including girls and students of color – to enroll in computer science courses in high school.  ACCESS has been working with Code.org, the College Board and UCOP to try to get math credit approval for AP CS-A.  We hope this legislation will help support these efforts.

While these two bills represent a significant victory for computer science education, much work needs to be done to help establish robust guidelines for computer science coursework, promote high quality and engaging computer science curriculum, help prepare teachers to teach it, provide ongoing professional development, and most importantly, ensure that we are recruiting and retaining underrepresented students in meaningful computer science coursework that will help prepare students for college and careers.

If you have any further ideas or suggestions on how to fully realize the potential of these two bills, please don’t hesitate to contact either of us.

Julie Flapan and Debra Richardson

_____________________________

Julie Flapan

Executive Director, ACCESS and ECEP-CA
Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS)
Expanding Computing Education Pathways - California (ECEP-CA)

Debra Richardson

Professor and Chair, ACCESS

August 23, 2014 at 9:32 am 2 comments

Udacity, AT&T Team Up in Online Ed Degrees, without any universities

An interesting development in the MOOC degree space.  Udacity and AT&T, the partners with Georgia Tech on our OMS degree, are now teaming up around a new “NanoDegree” program — without any higher education institution involved.

AT&T is the only company that has committed to hire graduates of its NanoDegree program, and only 100 at that. No higher education accrediting body has recognized the new coursework. But Udacity founder Sebastian Thrum, who appeared last week at the New York Times Next New World Conference, says the company has more planned.“The intent is that this becomes an industry-wide platform,” said Thrun in an email, pointing out that while AT&T is the only company that Udacity has asked to commit jobs, others that include Cloudera, Autodesk and Salesforce.com have endorsed the degree.

via Udacity, AT&T Team Up in Online Ed – Digits – WSJ.

August 22, 2014 at 8:28 am 1 comment

Seeking Participants for Modality Study: Please forward

This is part of Briana Morrison’s dissertation work.  She’s asking the question about the role of explaining programs in different modalities (e.g., visual vs. oral text) have on understanding.  If you know potential applicants (e.g., maybe advertise it to your whole class?), please forward this to them. We’d appreciate it!

Do you like to watch videos on the internet?

Want to help with a research study?

 

We need volunteers, age 18 and older, with no computer programming experience to help us determine the best way to explain code using videos.

 

No more than 2 hours of your time!

Completing a portion of the study allows you to enter a raffle for one of four

$50 Amazon Gift Cards

Completion of entire study allows you to enter a raffle for one

$100 Amazon Gift Card

 

Interested? Go to the following website:

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CLModality

 

August 21, 2014 at 8:31 am 2 comments

Where do K-12 policy decisions get made in US states?

As I talked about in my NCWIT Summit Flash talk, the second step in changing a state’s K-12 computing education policy is figuring out where you are and how you move K-12 in your state.

Rick Adrion found a terrific set of resources that help to get a handle on what’s going on in each state.

Resources like these make it more clear why efforts like NGSS and Common Core are in trouble.  In quite a few states, most decisions are pushed down to the district level.  If states aren’t willing to make decisions for their whole state, how could they even consider requiring national standards?

August 20, 2014 at 8:18 am 4 comments

New NSF Solicitation to Revolutionize Whole Departments

The below note was posted by Jeff Forbes to the SIGCSE Members list.  What an interesting idea — funding to change a whole department!

NSF has posted a new solicitation for proposals, IUSE/Professional Formation of Engineers: Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED).

RED focuses on efforts to effect significant, systemic departmental change that impacts undergraduate student success in their formation as computer scientists or engineers. This program is particularly interested in efforts that address the middle two years of the four year undergraduate experience, during which students receive the bulk of their formal technical preparation. RED proposals need to engage the entire department, and the effort must be led by the chair/head of the department.

See http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505105 for more information.

Note: “Engineering departments” in the solicitation refers to both engineering and computer science departments, regardless of whether those departments are in a school of Engineering.

Letters of Intent are due October 28, 2014.

August 19, 2014 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

2014: The Year the Media Stopped Caring About MOOCs?

Perhaps we succeeded in preventing the MOOCopalypse, despite the claims that “Computer Science MOOCS march forward!”  Since the MOOC phenomenon was mostly fed by the media, the decline of interest from the media may be a good sign.

The news media’s appetite for MOOC stories has been insatiable. So when the University of Pennsylvania sent an email inviting several hundred education reporters to a seminar on massive open online courses, it anticipated a healthy turnout.

But as the catering deadline approached at the National Press Club, in Washington, organizers realized that they had barely enough registered attendees to justify a platter of finger food.

“We didn’t have a set thing in mind as to how many would attend, but what we were thinking was 15 to 20 from, let’s call them, ‘established’ media outlets,” said Ron Ozio, director of media relations at Penn. “And we got four.”

The university canceled the event.

via 2014: The Year the Media Stopped Caring About MOOCs? – Wired Campus – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

August 18, 2014 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

Moving From “CS for a Few” to “CS for All” to “CS For Each”

Really interesting point from Joanna Goode.  “CS for All” should not mean “One Kind of CS that All have to take.”  Her notion of “CS for Each” goes further than the multiple CS1’s that we have at Georgia Tech.  Seymour Papert talked about the value of a personal relationship with a discipline, and I think that’s the direction that Joanna is steering us.

But, as all the students gain access to computer science learning, teachers are charged with the task of teaching each student based on the lived experiences, prior knowledge, and the wonders of the world that the child brings to the classroom. Developing a computer science classroom that welcomes each child requires a culturally responsive pedagogy that views diversity as a strength that should be integrated within the curriculum. Additional instructional supports for English language learners and students with disabilities should be developed and shared to support teachers in a CS for Each model.

via Computer Science Teachers Association: Moving From “CS for a Few” to “CS for All” to “CS For Each”.

August 14, 2014 at 5:57 am 6 comments

ScratchJr is now available for iPad (Android and Web coming)

Pretty exciting new direction for Scratch!  I’m really curious about the research that’s going to come out using ScratchJr. What can students learn to do with ScratchJr, and what’s the distribution (e.g., all kids learn X, but only 10% reach Y)? What do students transfer forward from learning ScratchJr?

ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children ages 5-7 to create their own interactive stories and games. Children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. Children can modify characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves — then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life.ScratchJr was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language http://scratch.mit.edu, used by millions of young people ages 8 and up around the world. In creating ScratchJr, we redesigned the interface and programming language to make them developmentally appropriate for younger children, carefully designing features to match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development.ScratchJr is now available as a free iPad app. We expect to release an Android version later in 2014 and a web-based version in 2015.

via ScratchJr – About.

August 13, 2014 at 8:58 am 5 comments

More tech companies release diversity figures: They look a lot like Google’s and Yahoo’s

Below is the article on Facebook’s diversity figure release. (Google really did lead the pack here.)  Here’s Twitter’s, LinkedIn’s, and EBay’s.  For those of us doing this work, these are not surprising results.  But they are super important for showing us where we are now.  We have very little diversity in the computing industry.  This gives us a sense of what we need to work on, and how to measure progress.

Sadly, Facebook’s numbers look a lot like the other four. I’ll let the figures speak for themselves:Globally the company is 69 percent male, 31 percent female. In terms of ethnicity the company is 57 percent white, 34 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, 3 percent two or more races, 3 percent black and 0 percent other.Scrutinized further, in the tech force of Facebook, 85 percent are male and 15 percent are female. In terms of ethnicity in the tech division 53 percent are white, 41 percent are Asian, 3 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are two or more races, 1 percent is black and 0 percent is other.

via Facebook releases diversity figures: They look a lot like Google’s and Yahoo’s – Salon.com.

August 12, 2014 at 8:51 am 3 comments

Get CS into Schools through Math and Science Classes: What we might lose

The August issue of Communications of the ACM (see here) includes a paper in the Viewpoints Education column by Uri Wilensky, Corey E. Brady, and Michael S. Horn on “Fostering Computational Literacy in Science Classrooms.” I was eager to get Uri’s perspective on CS education in high schools into the Viewpoints column after hearing him speak at the January CS Education Research workshop.

Uri suggests that the best way to get computational literacy into high schools is by adding computer science to science classes. He’s done the hard work of connecting his agent-based modeling curriculum to Next Generation Science Standards. In Uri’s model, Computer Science isn’t a “something else” to add to high school. It helps science teachers meet their needs.

Uri isn’t the only one pursuing this model. Shriram and Matthias suggested teaching computer science through mathematics classes in CACM in 2009. Bootstrap introduces computer science at the middle school level as a way to learn Algebra more effectively. Irene Lee’s GUTS (“Growing Up Thinking Scientifically”) introduces computation as a tool in middle school science.

In most states today, computer science is classified as a business/vocational subject, called “Career and Technical Education (CTE).” There are distinct advantages to a model that puts CS inside science and mathematics classes. Professional development becomes much easier. Science and mathematics teachers have more of the background knowledge to pick up CS than do most business teachers. CS becomes the addition of some modules to existing classes, not creating whole new classes.

It’s an idea well worth thinking about.  I can think of three reasons not to pursue CS through math/science model, and the third one may be a show-stopper.

(1) Can science and math teachers help us broaden participation in computing? Remember that the goal of the NSF CS10K effort is to broaden access to computing so as to broaden participation in computing. As Jane Margolis has noted, CTE teachers know how to teach diverse groups of students. Science and mathematics classes have their own problems with too little diversity. Does moving CS into science and mathematics classes make it more or less likely that we’ll attract a more diverse audience to computing?

(2) Do we lose our spot at the table? I’ve noted in a Blog@CACM post that there are computer scientists annoyed that CS is being classified by states as “science” or “mathematics.” Peter Denning has argued that computer science is a science, but cuts across many fields including mathematics and engineering. If we get subsumed into mathematics and computer science classes, do we lose our chance to be a peer science or a peer subject to mathematics? And is that going against the trend in universities? Increasingly, universities are deciding that computer science is its own discipline, either creating Colleges/Schools of CS (e.g., Georgia Tech and CMU) or creating Colleges/Schools of Information/Informatics (e.g., U. Washington, U. Michigan, Drexler, and Penn State).

(3) Do we lose significant funding for CS in schools? Here’s the big one. Currently, computer science is classified as “Career and Technical Education.” As CTE, CS classes are eligible for Perkins funding — which is not available for academic classes, like mathematics or science.

I tried to find out just how much individual schools get from Perkins. Nationwide, over $1.2 billion USD gets distributed. I found a guide for schools on accessing Perkins funds. States get upwards of $250K for administration of the funds. I know that some State Departments of Education use Perkins funding to pay for Department of Education personnel who manage CTE programs. To get any funding, high schools must be eligible for at least $15K. That’s a lot of money for a high school.

The various CS Education Acts (e.g., on the 2011 incarnation and on the 2013 incarnation) are about getting CS classified as STEM in order to access funding set aside for STEM education. As I understand it, none of these acts has passed. Right now, schools can get a considerable amount of funding if CS stays in CTE. If schools move CS to math and science, there is no additional funding available.

Perkins funding is one of the reasons why CS has remained in CTE in South Carolina. It would be nice to have CS in academic programs where it might be promoted among students aiming for college. But to move CS is to lose thousands of dollars in funding. South Carolina has so far decided that it’s not in their best interests.

Unless a CS education act ever passes Congress, it may not make economic sense to move CS into science or mathematics courses. The federal government provides support for STEM classes and CTE classes.  CS is currently in CTE.  We shouldn’t pull it out until it counts as STEM.  This is another good reason to support a CS education act.

August 11, 2014 at 8:28 am 6 comments

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